Jewel Cave was established in 1908 the same year as Wind Cave. Both were designated as monuments but Wind Cave quickly was approved as a park. Our guide told us what the difference in a park and monument was. Greg and I looked smugly at one another since this was part of our Sunset Dune tour at White Sands National Monument. "A monument just has to have the President's signature, but a park must go thru the legislative process." We both really delighted in this cave tour. One, our interpretive ranger, Michele, was exuberant, funny, and knowledgeable. Two, there were only 8 people on the tour. Finally, it was like being inside numerous large geodes.
There were stalactites and stalagmite although they were really of short statue. Hanging from the walls were brown/yellow drapes and the ceilings were sprinkled with numerous popcorn formations. The jewels of theses cavernous areas are calcite crystals which form bands of between two to six inches and appear as the inside of a geode. This also the source of Jewel Cave's name.
The most unusual formation is called bacon and, given the bacon craze now with that fatty meat being added to almost any food, it caused the most digestive upset in me. After all it must have been 2 feet in width and 6 feet in length.
While this egg yolk formation looks really gross, it is really an artifact of the photograph.
There were other unusual ceiling formations.
I even got to see if I would fit in the tightest opening for spelunkers exploring the cave system. G would not get to go spelunking--so sad!
We returned to Mt. Rushmore yesterday in order to see the nightly show. It is held in a large outdoor amphitheater which is situated below the sculptures. Darkness shrouds the Presidents. If you come to Mt. Rushmore, do not miss this---it is so moving!
Our friend Ranger Dottie was the emcee and, besides being the button pusher, she was the story teller. She is an extremely talented interpretive ranger. I wish you could have heard and seen her telling the story behind the 1814 poem, Defense of Fort M'Henry. As she recited the poem, you could feel their anxiety as they felt the cannons fire and the ship shake. You could see the night darkness descend and feel the wetness of the fog as it rolled in. You could see the men watching, their anxiety palpable, to see if the fog would lift and if the flag would be revealed. The crowd cheered as the Star Spangled Banner was seen and the battle was won. Yes, the poem was by Francis Scott Key and became famous as our national song. After that we watched a short movie on the significance of the Presidents sculpted into Mount Rushmore. As the movie ended,
Mt. Rushmore was slowly illuminated. Not all at once, but, bit by bit, the mountain was brought into full clarity---another touching moment!
Finally, all the men and women who had been in the military were called to the stage to help retire the flag. Over 40 men and women were on stage and as the flag was retired, the audience sang the Star Spangled Banner. It was a powerful statement for those who have served and for our nation.